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Six Nations form will be key for Lions selection

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    04 Feb 2017     Getty Images

The lock said Ireland's wins over the All Blacks, South Africa and Australia during 2016, and successful campaigns by Wales and Scotland, along with England's unbeaten run, were impressive but were secondary to the job ahead.

"This championship is massively important, it is where most of the selecting will be done," he told lionsrugby.com as the competition starts at the weekend. Ireland are playing Scotland, Wales at playing Italy and England is playing France.

"As an individual you want to play well but more than playing well individually you need your team to play well, you need your country to play well and you want to bring form to the tour.

"Particularly when you go to New Zealand, you want to be picking players that have gone into the Six Nations and have produced some great rugby," he said.

If one of the home nations teams won the championship or completed a grand slam then it was most likely a majority of that team would be selected for the Lions.

With that in mind O'Connell believes it will come down to the England-Ireland game to decide the title this year.

It is a natural final coming on the last day of the tournament.

"I think the decider will be in Dublin.

"They are the two best teams in at the moment, England are probably out there at the front on their own as favourites, the strength and depth they have is incredible.

"But Wales are going to come back strong this year and they will probably topple one of those two.

"I've seen the Glasgow-Scottish players up close and Gregor Townsend has done a great job them, Jonny Gray, Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg in particular.

"Those three guys are absolute stand outs and they are as good as any other player in the championship. I think that's probably something Scotland have been missing. For the first time in a long time, Scotland are genuine contenders," he said.

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